Plants and Animals
Plants and Animals
Plants and Animals
The coconut palm is the most important tree in Micronesia. Kopra, the dried meat of the coconut, from which coconut oil is made, is the most important export product and therefore an important source of income. The coconut also produces a kind of wine, tuba. Furthermore, rope, fuel, roofing straw and baskets are made from the coconut trees. Breadfruit trees are also common in Micronesia and provide lumber and fruit. Lumber also comes from the mahogany tree and the betel palm or areca palm. The betel nut is an important food product. The fruit of the pandanus tree is widely eaten and the leaves are used to make mats, baskets and fans.
Other traditional food plants are the taro, bread plants, tapioca and banana trees. Mangrove swamps are found along the coasts of the highland islands.
Colourful tropical plants and flowers are abundant in Micronesia, such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, plumeria, lilies, lantanas and crotons. Plants such as coleus, caladium and philodendron can be gigantic. Special is an insect-eating plant and a plant that closes its leaves when touched.
In general, the closer an archipelago is to the Asian mainland, the more animal species are found there. Higher-lying islands also have a greater variety of animal species than the lower atolls. For example, the Marshall Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands and Gilbert Islands have little more than sea and shore birds. Palau, on the other hand, has the most animal species in its territory.
Micronesia's only native mammals are bats. With the exception of the Marshall Islands, bats with wingspans of up to one metre are found everywhere. Dogs, cats, mice, rats, pigs, cattle, horses and goats have all been imported. On several islands there are monitor lizards that can reach a length of almost two metres. Micronesia has many species of skinks and the gecko is also found everywhere. The coconut crab and the mangrove crab are two of the many species of crabs that occur in this area. Micronesia has about 7,000 species of insects, of which the many mosquitoes and cockroaches are the most troublesome for humans.
Micronesia has a very rich marine fauna, including a wide variety of hard and soft corals, anemones, sponges and many species of crustaceans, the most impressive of which is the giant tridacna mussel. This mussel can reach 1.2 metres in diameter and weigh over 200 kg. Some specimens can live to be over 100 years old. Sea turtles such as the hawksbill, green and leatherback turtle are all endangered species, but still lay their eggs on the deserted sandy beaches. Harbour porpoises, sperm whales and dolphins populate the Micronesian waters.
More than 200 species of birds have been spotted in the Micronesian Islands and about 85 species breed in this area. The cardinal honeyeater is almost extinct on Guam but is still common on the other islands. The white or grey reef heron lives around the reefs and in low water, always hunting for fish and small crabs. Little egrets are often found on grasslands where cattle graze. Micronesian starlings are very common. Also common are the lesser golden plover, whimbrel, red-legged stork, brown and black-backed gull and white tern. While diving and snorkelling, one encounters sea angels, bonitos, butterfly fish, eels, mudskippers, swordfish, trumpet fish, tuna and many other species. Dangerous for humans can be jellyfish, stonefish, sea stars and conch shells.
The brown tree snake, which accidentally reached Guam via the Solomon Islands, has wiped out almost the entire forest bird population. In fact, nine native bird species have become extinct as a result and Guam may become the first country in the world where all native bird species have become extinct. The number of brown tree snakes is in the millions. In some places, there are 12,000 snakes per square mile! Other Pacific islands are trying hard to keep the snake out, but it has already been spotted on Saipan, Wake and Oahu.
The rare sambar deer can still be found on Guam. The carabao, a water buffalo, is mostly seen in southern Guam, where they still work on small farms. Guam's reefs harbour one of the world's most diverse fish populations with more than 800 different species. More than 300 species of coral are also found there.
Butterflies are mainly found on Guam as the brown tree snake has wiped out almost all birds that hunt for caterpillars and butterflies. The Guam corncrake was extinct for a while, but has returned after a special breeding programme.
Galbraith, K. / Micronesia
Levy, N. / Micronesia handbook
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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